Talking all things parcel lockers with Bloq.it CEO Miha Jagodic
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Back in 2019 during a stint in San Francisco, Miha Jagodic came up with the idea of creating a safe storage solution for beaches. Since then, the entrepreneur has grown Bloq.it into a parcel locker provider with a presence in 14 markets worldwide and clients including El Corte Ingles.
The company says it is the fastest growing parcel locker firm in the world, and offers a holistic end-to-end Smart Locker Solutions for any use-case, no matter the industry. Based in Lisbon, Bloq.it also now has an office in Zagreb as it looks to continue its global expansion.
The growth of the firm comes amid a time of great development in e-commerce and the out-of-home last mile delivery space.
A number of developed nations have yet to fully spawn mature parcel locker markets, which represents an opportunity for parcel locker manufacturers such as Bloq.it. In addition to this, developments in technology mean parcel lockers can be interacted with in various ways, opening up numerous use cases.
Amid these developments, we spoke to Miha Jagodic himself to learn how he expanded on his locker concept, as well as his thoughts on parcel locker development, the needs of different markets, and Bloq.it’s future ambitions.
Thanks for talking to us at Trans.INFO Miha. Bloq.it originally started with a beach locker concept. At which point did this morph into a parcel locker business, and what was the motivation for this?
We always felt that lockers can be used for multiple purposes. This way we initially started building a B2C smart locker network that would work as a public space, based on a shared economy, that anyone can use for their current needs.
This could go for either storage of items, charging of phones, all the way to more complicated use-cases such as peer-to-peer exchanges or objects, parcels, etc.
When we were in a search of suppliers of HW and SW, we found a lot of challenges and there were not many that could fit our needs. Especially SW-wise, we didn’t really have any options so we decided to develop everything from scratch.
Since we were in Portugal, we wanted to test the lockers on beaches as a tough environment, while we expected to have good adoption from people in a need of storing their belongings while enjoying a sunny day.
Shortly after the first placements of the lockers, we started receiving a lot of inquiries from shopping malls, festivals, logistic companies and even pharmacies for smart parcel locker solutions.
At that time we realised that we found ourselves in a market, that is growing rapidly while having one of the most adaptable and customisable solutions in the market.
This way, at the end of 2019 we focused on providing a B2B smart parcel lockers with a focus on the software and user-friendliness of the solution. Since then, we’ve been growing over 1,000% for 3 years and a row, and based on the current orders, the next year won’t be any different.
Parcel lockers exist in various formats nowadays, with some having screens and interfaces and others operating exclusively via mobile apps. Which do you believe offers the best experience for the user and value for money for the company purchasing the lockers?
Our initial locker model is screen-based, as it was made to be as multifunctional and customizable as possible. Since then, we have developed many different variations of lockers, including screenless and app-based solutions. As we represent the software-first approach when it comes to lockers, the interfaces and means of interactions are widely open to our partners’ preference.
When it comes to my personal opinion (based on experience), the app is only a good solution when you have a large customer base that already uses your (the client’s) app.
If they use the app on a recurring basis, we provide simple integrations with which they can interact with a locker.
If you want to force the app just to use a locker, there might be simpler ways that boost the adoption, such as a simple pin code being sent to text message, or generated QR codes, with which a user can open a door.
If I’m up to speed, Bloq.it is currently present in 14 markets. What’s interesting is the geographical spread – you have a presence in the Americas, Africa, Europe and Asia. One would presume it may be easier for you to expand predominantly in neighbouring countries with a similar culture and business environment with similar time zones, urban environments and consumer preferences. Why have you ended up expanding to rather disparate nations on different continents? Did you simply cast your net wide, or did you target specific countries across the globe where you felt the opportunities were greatest?
The diversity of markets surprised us as well. So far, we’ve been focusing on making the right product more than looking country by country to expand.
Some countries also see slower adoption of solutions than others, therefore it’s harder to plan market expansion precisely.
We’ve been receiving a lot of demand from basically everywhere and if we can guarantee the transportation and installation in those markets, we follow the order.
Are there any sizes or features of parcel lockers that better suit those different markets given their urban environment and regulatory requirements among other things?
I’d say it all depends on the company investing, the segment they are a part of, and the location in which these lockers will be placed.
For urban smart lockers, of course, any governmental urban guidelines in specific countries and cities have to be followed, but to this day, nothing has imposed a significant obstacle for us.
Among the countries you haven’t expanded to yet, which present the greatest opportunity for parcel locker companies? As I referred to, there are a number of developed nations where parcel locker networks are not nearly as extensive as one might expect.
I think we have a strong opportunity in the MENA region and also in the United States of America. Respectively, one has great potential on the development side, where there is a higher chance for smart cities built from the ground up.
The other one is an unsolved puzzle that we believe is going to boom in terms of parcel locker deployment, it just took a bit longer for people to adopt out of home pick-ups.
Besides improvements regarding UI, security and stability, what extra features would you like to bring to your parcel lockers operating system? Do you see any opportunities for the OS to better facilitate returns processes among other things?
Our team is working hard on increasing the potential of carbon reduction.
Not only logistically, by solving real-life problems for the last mile industry, but also within the hardware itself. Working with solar panels and recycled metal and/or wood, are definitely something that our development teams are prospecting for in the near future.
In terms of features, we believe there is a lot of potential in connecting lockers’ software with PUDO points. Many companies decide not to deploy a locker network because they can’t secure the necessary density from the beginning.
In that case, connecting a couple of lockers with PUDOs would enable a study case upon which to build the network.
While the parcel lockers market has yet to develop in some countries, in others, such as Poland for example, we arguably have parcel locker saturation in that one location can even have lockers from 5 different companies. This is arguably not an optimal solution. Therefore, do you feel governments would be wise to implement regulatory changes to make parcel lockers open to more couriers?
I believe it’s too early to claim that there should be an agnostic solution for all of them.
Also, competition is a must – it’s not optimal to join all the use cases and prohibit different locker placement as we lockers can become less flexible/customisable, having a worse user experience, while brands lose the connection to the final user.
As a brand, you want the final user to interact with your product, branded in your colours.
One of the barriers to the development of parcel locker networks also seems to be the difficulty of getting planning permission for lockers. In some countries, this has seen lockers often being placed in or outside shops and other private properties, rather than more practical spots at the heart of neighborhoods and apartment blocks. Which countries in particular do you observe this challenge, and what can be done about it?
Any type of bureaucracy from local governments will always be a challenge. Of course, placing in private areas will be logistically easier due to the ease for approvals, at least compared to local governments.
One factor that we believe plays a strong hand in this manner is security. Placing Parcel Lockers inside a store instead of the outside, guarantees more security for the end user, which is essential in countries like in South America, where crime rates are higher than in the US or European markets.
Brazil, for example, is a great case for a potentially great market for Smart Locker networks, but where the security issue is a huge pain point if placing them on the streets or parks.
Parcel lockers represent the final step of a consumer’s supply chain. The parcel lockers themselves require their own supply chain of course; raw materials and components need to be sourced for their manufacture. Given all the disruption we’ve seen of late, not to mention chip shortages, you must have faced some challenges with regards to this. How have you navigated this issue?
For the past 2 years we have been monitoring the global supply chain issues to always be ahead of any extraordinary circumstances that may or may not halt our operations, especially overseas.
We have been building at the same time great relationships with our suppliers in every segment of the supply chain, to further guarantee our operations autonomy, respecting delivery dates and providing excellence in the final product.
We have a lot of suppliers from Portugal, which helps in that regard, in those that we don’t we are trying to stock-up components as well.
The end of Q3 2022 is approaching, and soon businesses will be turning their attention to targets for 2023. What are your ambitions for the next year?
We have very ambitious plans for 2023. This goes for both, commercial and technical part of the business.
While we have quite a good coverage across Europe, our goal is to position ourselves as a ‘go-to’ provider for this geographical area, establish ourselves as leading smart locker software provider and this way also work together on projects with many other smart locker companies.
We are also looking into strengthening our presence in MENA region, which is proving to be an interesting market. From the technical perspective, we are looking to further develop new features, all in order to make our smart lockers as easy to integrate with our clients’ existing solutions, and making it the most user friendly solution there is.